Vice President Mike Pence offered more details Thursday on President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force, a new military command dedicated to defending American assets in orbit. Despite the Space Force having already launched a fleet of memes and side eye from both lawyers and policymakers, it’s clear that the Trump Administration really plans to go through with this, provided it gets approval from Congress.
Speaking at the Pentagon, Pence outlined the administration’s current plan to defend and/or colonize space, which will “meet the emerging new threats on this new battlefield.” Pence offered a four-step plan to building out what he says will be the “sixth military branch of the United States,” which, if approved, will be the first new branch in the military in over 70 years.
“It’s not enough to have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space, and so we will,” Pence said. The vice president cited the space advancements of our “adversaries” — such as China’s missile which tracked and destroyed its own satellite and Russia’s airborne laser — as evidence of the United States’ lateness to the space military party. “This is a critical step toward’s establishing the Space Force as the sixth branch of our armed forces,” he said, noting that Space Force “won’t be built from scratch” thanks to the “sophisticated constellation of military satellites” already deployed from the United States.
The plan had previously faced criticism from the Pentagon and military leaders who worried that a Space Force would not only exhaust Pentagon resources in building an entirely new bureaucratic branch but would be redundant, seeing as the Pence’s outline for a Space Force resembles much of the key responsibilities already held by the Air Force. Pence reiterated Trump’s statement from March that the administration is still focused on a “new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea” and compared today’s announcement to when the US first created an Air Force to meet the needs of American involvement in World War II.
The Department of Defense is expected to publish a report that includes four action items for building the Space Force. Pence outlined the four-step plan as firstly building a unified command center, followed by creating an elite group of space fighters recruited from other branches. Pence did not specify if the new military branch would be accepting volunteer enlistments or if this will be invitation-only.
The third step in four-point plan is to build a new joint organization known as the Space Development Agency. This, Pence says, will help the organization avoid redundancy with the Air Force by focusing on innovation… and borrowing experts and resources from the Air Force.
Lastly, a successful Space Force requires “clear lines of responsibility and accountability,” and thus a new role must be created. Pence announced that there will be a civilian position in the Space Force who will report to the Secretary of Defence as something of a “New Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space” but it’s unclear if that name will stick.
“Trump recently signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan,” Pence said before calling on Congress to invest another “$8 billion in security systems over the next five years.” For this Space Force to really take off, the Trump Administration will need Congressional approval. If Trump does get his way, Pence believes Space Force could be established by 2020.